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Eyelashes, the short hairs that grow at the end of your eyelid, are meant to protect your eyes from dust and debris.

The glands at the base of your lashes also help lubricate your eyes when you blink. Occasionally, an eyelash may fall into your eye and become stuck for a minute or two.

When this happens, you may feel irritation or itching under your eyelid. You might have the urge to rub your eye, and your eye will probably start tearing up.

If you have an eyelash in your eye, try to stay calm and follow the instructions in this article. Most of the time, an eyelash can simply and easily be removed without further complications.

Eyelashes in your eye can feel fluttery, gritty, or sharp and stinging. You may or may not feel the eyelash fall out, and it may or may not be a result of rubbing your eyes.

You can identify that what’s in your eye is an eyelash by standing in front of a mirror, holding your eye open, and moving your eye from side to side. The eyelash may become visible, or it might not. Follow the steps below if you see or suspect an eyelash in your eye.

To remove an eyelash from your eye safely, follow these steps:

  1. Before you do anything, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water and dry them with a towel. Remove any contact lenses if you have them in. You don’t want to introduce bacteria to your eye, especially when it’s already irritated.
  2. Facing a mirror, gently tug at the skin above your brow bone and the skin below your eye. Look carefully for a moment and see if you can see the eyelash floating around in your eye.
  3. Without rubbing your eye, take a deep breath and blink several times to see if your natural tears will wash out the eyelash on their own.
  4. If it feels like the lash is behind your upper eyelid, gently pull your upper eyelid forward and over toward your lower lid. Look upward, then to your left, then to your right, and then down. Repeat this process to try to move the eyelash toward the center of your eye.
  5. Use a wet cotton swab to try to gently grab the eyelash if you see it drifting down toward or under your lower eyelid. Only do this if the lash is on the white part of the eye or eyelid.
  6. Try artificial tears or saline solution to flush the eyelash out.
  7. If none of the above steps have been successful, take a small juice cup and fill it with lukewarm, filtered water. Lower your eye toward the cup and try to rinse the eyelash out.
  8. As a last resort, you might try taking a shower and directing a gentle stream of water toward your eye.

For children

If your child has an eyelash stuck in his or her eye, don’t use your fingernails or any other sharp object to try to get it.

If the steps above don’t work, hold your child’s eye open and instruct them to look from side to side and up and down as you rinse it with saline solution or artificial tear eye drops.

If these are unavailable, use a gentle stream of clean, lukewarm or cool water. You may also try using a wet cotton swab on the corner of the eye to try to remove it.

If an eyelash is stuck in your eye or a child’s eye for more than an hour, you may need to call in a medical professional for help. Repeated attempts to remove an eyelash from an eye can scratch and irritate the cornea, which increases the risk of eye infections.

If an eyelash has been floating in your eye for a minute or so, it can start to drive you a little crazy. Staying calm is your best strategy for removing a foreign object from your eye.

Here’s a quick list of things to avoid while the eyelash is in your eye:

  • Don’t try to remove an eyelash when you’ve got contact lenses in your eye.
  • Don’t ever touch your eye without washing your hands first.
  • Don’t use tweezers or any other sharp object.
  • Don’t attempt to drive or operate any sensitive equipment.
  • Don’t ignore the eyelash and hope it goes away.
  • Don’t panic.

Usually an eyelash in your eye is a temporary inconvenience that you can quickly resolve yourself.

If you can’t remove the eyelash, it can scratch your eyelid or eye. Bacteria from your hands can be introduced to your eye while it’s irritated. You can also injure your eyelid or cornea trying to remove the eyelash using your fingernails or a sharp object.

All of these factors increase your risk of conjunctivitis (pink eye), keratitis, or eyelid cellulitis.

If you feel like you have an eyelash in your eye but you can’t find it, there might be something else at play.

Ingrown eyelash is a common condition where an eyelash grows underneath your eyelid instead of outward. Certain eye conditions, like blepharitis, can make an ingrown eyelash more likely to occur.

If your eyelashes are falling out often, you may be experiencing hair loss or an infection on your eyelid. Eyelashes falling out can also be a sign that you’re allergic to a cosmetic product.

If you often feel the sensation of an eyelash or another object under your eyelid, you may have dry eye or an inflammation of your eyelid. If these symptoms don’t go away, you should see your eye doctor.

In some cases, an eyelash in your eye can result in a trip to the eye doctor. You should call in professional help if you experience any of the following:

  • an eyelash trapped in your eye for more than several hours
  • redness and tearing that doesn’t stop after the eyelash is removed
  • green or yellow pus or mucus coming from your eye
  • bleeding from your eye

Eyelashes in your eye are a fairly common condition, and can usually be taken care of at home. Avoid rubbing your eye and always wash your hands before touching your eye area. Above all, never try to remove an eyelash from your eye using a sharp object like tweezers.

In some situations, you may need the help of an ophthalmologist or optometrist to remove the eyelash safely. Speak to your eye specialist if you find that eyelashes are falling into your eyes often.